By definition, commenting on blogs and message boards means comfortable anonymity for the poster. Some take the freedom too far, overreacting and ridiculing, perhaps in part to boost their own low self-esteem.
With the emergence of popular social media venues such as Facebook and Twitter, the player and fan can interact directly. The outcomes aren’t always pretty.
During the off-season, when St. Louis Cardinals closer Jason Motte created and publicized his Twitter presence, I winced. Every player has bad days, but there is no single position that matches the volatility of closing, with its immediate highs and lows.
It is one thing to interact with fans when there are no games, but even the best closers are going to blow saves. When the lows come, they will be fast, hard and painful.
At those points in time, interaction between the angry fan and the athlete would best be insulated. Twitter has no such buffer, however.
In all fairness, after Monday’s surprising loss in Chicago absorbed by Motte, the vast majority of fans that expressed opinions were supportive of him, sending tweets of encouragement. After all, the closer has built up considerable goodwill given his and his team’s 2011 finish.
Following the loss, Motte made a single, somewhat generic, tweet:
“Whatever it is…it’s not outside Gods control. He may not get you out but He’ll get you through. #blessed”
The best closers are known for being able to quickly erase the result of the previous game. Yet the dozens of fan comments throughout the day on Tuesday encouraging Motte prolonged the memory of Monday’s missed opportunity.
Of course, Motte could decide to just stay away from social media until the storm passes. But then why use it in the first place? To deploy only when times are good?
Another blown save or two in the next week and the current supportive climate would likely change. Then what?
Former Cardinals closer Ryan Franklin once had a Twitter account, too. He had regular conversations with the masses, but after some bumps in the road, the account was canceled. Fan discord wasn’t directly the explanation offered, but my suspicion was that it contributed.
Motte certainly isn’t the first to muff a save opportunity. Just the other day, Minnesota closer Matt Capps was repeatedly insulted by a “fan” on Twitter after blowing a save. Twins blogger “Jesse” wrote about it here, rightly pointing out the inappropriateness and cowardice of the “fan” in making the criticism personal while complimenting the player for his professionalism.
I certainly agree with that assessment, but I also have to wonder about creating the environment in the first place. How wise is it for athletes to be that accessible?
Let’s face it; no matter how much we sermonize, those who need the lessons the most will not heed them. The lunatic fringe will remain. The only question is at what frequency and intensity they will surface. So, why enable them?